Rays morning after: Blake Snell pitched well enough to win, which was a victory
LHP Blake Snell still doesn't have a W, the only pitcher in the majors to make as many as 15 starts this season without one. But the fact that he pitched well enough to put the Rays into position to win Thursday night was a victory in itself.
"We had a chance to win the game simply because of Blake Snell's performance. It was outstanding,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said after the 4-1 win over the Indians. "He commanded all of his pitches, pitched out of some tough jams. A couple of leadoff doubles, a couple of walks here and there. But as far as commanding the baseball and making big pitches when he had to, that's a huge step in the right direction.
"I know he came off the mound feeling pretty good about himself. And he should because he did his job tonight, for sure.''
Snell wasn't even supposed to be on the Trop mound Thursday, having been demoted to Triple-A Durham for the second time this season following a rough start in Houston last Thursday. But after the Rays decided Monday to put RHP Alex Cobb on the DL with a turf toe problem, they turned back to Snell, who hadn't yet flown out.
He made the most of his second chance, working into the seventh for just the third time this season, and allowing just one run on four hits and two walks.
Among other suggestions, the Rays have been imploring him to make more use of his fastball, which he did Thursday, throwing it 65 times in his 101 pitches.
"I think it was really good,'' Snell said. "I could tell it was really carrying well. Just by seeing their swings I knew I had to use it more than my off-speed."
Snell said he knows the process will remain ongoing, working with the catchers and coaches Jim Hickey and Stan Boroski.
"Just got to continue to make adjustments that I need to, keep working with Hickey and Stan,'' Snell said. "I'm confident in what they're telling me. I really believe it. I've just got to keep doing what I've been doing, and hopefully that outcome will favor me. If not, I have to keep believing what I'm doing is right."
The plans for Snell are not clear beyond Tuesday, when he is slated to start again, with Cobb eligible to come off the DL as soon as Wednesday.
No matter, Cash said Thursday's successful outing - just the fifth game in Snell's 15 starts the Rays have won - should benefit the hard-throwing lefty going forward.
"Hopefully a lot,'' Cash said. "We have a tendency to nitpick his starts, and that's fine. But at the same time, he has made some progress since he's been back. The progress that he's made has showed quite a bit in certain select starts, but today was right there at the top."
As for the W?
Snell left with the score 1-1, so reliever Tommy Hunter got this one since he was the pitcher of record when the Rays took the lead, with closer Alex Colome then working the ninth for his major-league leading 34th save.
Snell may be on the verge of a breakthrough, but also history.
No pitcher in major-league history has finished a season with 15 or more starts and no wins.
Also, the 16 starts he has made since his last win (Sept. 22, 2016) leave him one shy of the team record held dubiously by Jason Hammel over 2006-07.
But at least Thursday he pitched well enough to win.
And that should count for something.